FELLOW ADOPTEE YENNIFER DALLMANN VILLA SHARES WITH YOU, HER ADOPTION STORY IN HER OWN WORDS. WHERE SHE WAS TOLD THERE WAS NO FAMILY, AND WHERE SHE GREW UP THINKING SHE DID NOT KNOW THE CONNECTION OF FAMILY, SHE FOUND THAT NOT ONLY DID SHE HAVE A FAMILY, BUT SHE DID KNOW THE BOND AND CONNECTION. IT WAS ALWAYS THERE, WAITING FOR HER TO RETURN, WAITING FOR HER TO FIND HER WAY BACK HOME…
entering the full circle
I was dancing in the street where I was born. It was New Years Eves and five weeks earlier I knew nothing about where I was from. I knew nothing about my family. The insanity of this moment made my head spin. I drank every Guaro, every Run I was offered, grabbed the bottle and made my family drink with me. My head kept spinning. I was happy, I was blessed, I could not believe what was happening to me. The neighbors neither. We children walked around telling one neighbor after another that I am the sister of my brother, the daughter of my mother. The woman that gave birth to me, in the house down the street, on the first floor, behind that window we can see. They all know my brother, they all remember my mother. And we enjoyed their look on the face, like seeing a ghost. They were in disbelieve and so was I. They kept looking from my brother to me and back and again. They said my mother’s name. It did not get old. No matter how often we played this game.
I grew up in Germany, in the most typical German family: Father a policeman, mother a stay at home wife with a gardening lot. And now I was dancing in the most typical Colombian barrio. With rumba in front of every house, music, fire burning, people dancing salsa, covered in orange light and motos sneaking their ways through the celebration. My adoption documents stated my mother was a drug addict, with only half a name. My paper of abandonment said: “From early on, Yennifer never knew what family was.” My mother trying, but losing her battle to care for me, did not count as family. I had no one on my team. Abandoned. So they changed my birthday to make me younger, they erased my first name Leydi an made me fit my parents’ request for a daughter. „But a white one, please. No N-child, no mix. White, blond, cute.“ Lucky me. I got what I have never known: family.
Except I have known family.
Except a mother trying does count as family.
Except I remember waiting in my crib for my mother to come back to me.
Except I remember giving up waiting on her and going with the wrong family.
Except, my abuela* wanted to get me from the orphanage but was denied access.
Except my abuela praying 10.585 nights for me to come back to them.
Except in my dreams, I heard a voice telling me, that I need to remember who I am.
Except I had a sister that wrote me a letter, when she was 8 years old, that never arrived.
Except I yearned my lost big brother who died even before I was born.
Except I prayed every night to not die myself before I could find my way home.
I had no one on my team.
Except my brothers’ grandmother allowing my birth in her home, 14 years before my baby brother was even born.
Except for the neighbors’ sister, who breastfed me, when my mother had no milk.
Except for the aunt of my brother, who gifted me her oldest sons clothes, when I had nothing but my skin.
Except not only my mother who tried but the whole street who decided to help me.
I was dancing in the street where I was born. 5 weeks earlier I knew nothing about where I was from and now I was not only reconnected with my abuela, sister and a baby brother but also offered family by seven tias* and tios*, another grandmother and 6 primas* and primos* I was welcomed back as warm as I was once clothed by them. New Year’s Eve and I was back where my life started, surrounded by those who have witnessed my birth. We celebrated for two days. And when I came home I wrote:
You came home, running late
With sand still covering your shoes
You feel your cousins arms around your chest
You came home running late
You forgot your way, turned around when no one was left
You found home, it was late
Orange darkness on your street
Your eyes cringed to remember the vagueness of the schemes
You are home, you are safe
Your head against his heart
For you the first time you can rest”
Yennifer Dallmann Villa,
born in Colombia
adopted to Germany
Yennifer is a photographer, designer, and human rights, activist.
You can find and follow her work on her website: http://yvilla.de/
and on instagram @ yvilla_cologne
She is the creating force behind the project “No Mother No Child”, in which she traveled to Colombia photographing the mothers in Colombia who have lost their children. You can find and follow her and No Mother No Child on facebook: www.facebook.com/NoMotherNoChild